Just finished listening to ‘Emma’ in the unabridged version read by Juliet Stevenson. It’s difficult to add value to Jane Austen but Stevenson’s brilliant characterisations and speech rhythms bring new vibrancy to the text. Her readings of the chief comedy characters (Mrs Elton and Miss Bates) are especially strong but there are no real weak spots. ‘Emma’ could perhaps stand the odd edit here and there by today’s standards but with Stevenson’s readings there are no longueurs.

Listening to the audiobook prompted us to watch the film version with Juliet Stevenson as Mrs Elton. She’s very good in that too but Sophie Thompson is magnificent as Miss Bates, capturing all the essential aspects of that character: a study in pathos.

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